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Of Yariba, Nyamiri and Aboki

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By Emeka Obasi

Your name says so much about character and reputation small wonder people who do not feel comfortable with certain tag do identity surgery as a departure from the past.

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Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was Benjamin until he suffered discrimination as a college student in the United States. He ended up as the first president of Nigeria and even brought Americans to his country to establish a university.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo threw away Jeremiah. During the Civil War, he was the most powerful person in the Nigerian Government, something he could not achieve in the First Republic.

Love him or hate him, one thing you cannot take away from Femi Fani Kayode is that he reads books. He is also not a bloody coward. In his case, I advise that we take the message instead of crucifying the messenger.

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Fani Kayode has come out boldly to tell the Yoruba what many of them did not know and some would not like to know. Late Education historian, Prof. Babs Fafunwa, warned against not knowing one’s past.

The word Yoruba really did not come from the Yoruba. It came from the Hausa–Fulani word ‘Yariba’ which defines deceit. It is absurd that the people should accept such appellation.

The Yoruba see themselves more as Oodua or Omoluabi. Fani Kayode adds Anago and has decided not to identify with that obnoxious word, Yoruba. He has seen the light and is saying to all Yoruba, ‘it is daybreak’.

I never heard of ‘egbe omo Yoruba.’ We all know of ‘egbe omo Oduduwa.’ There is Oodua Peoples Congress [OPC], not Yoruba Peoples Congress. I want to believe Fani Kayode.

Ethnic nationalities have different names, some derogatory like Yariba but they do not bear such. The Igbo maybe called ‘Nyamiri’ by the Hausa–Fulani or ‘Okoro’ by the Yoruba. It is not acceptable.

The Igbo could taunt Yoruba friends with ‘ofe mmanu’, or describe Hausa-Fulani as ‘babiallah.’ Beyond friendship, it could lead to war.

You dare not call an Ibibio man, ‘imi nkita’ [dog nose] or Urhobo Olorogun, ‘Usobo wayo’ unless you are ready to meet your creator as a result of a head-cutting duel. In the Middle Belt, such names as ‘shoosho’ and ‘munchi’ are old fashioned.

The question then is how did Oduduwa get hooked unto this derogatory name? We now see why Fela dropped Ransome for Anikulapo Kuti, and in death is recognized as a global hero.

We also have to take a deeper look into the name Nigeria. Some say it came from Niger area, thanks to Flora Shaw. Many believe it connotes darkness and strife. There are those who think it is a blessing.

My submission is that the name is a curse. The man who amalgamated the North and the South, Frederick Dealtry Lugard, was a failure. It was only when he was forced to relocate to Africa, the white man’s ‘Dark Continent,’ that he became a fraudulent hero.

Lugard lost his mom at eight years in 1867. His parents lived in India and he could not pass exams into Indian Service. The failure was only able to make Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst because his uncle, Edward, was part of the war office.

At Sandhurst in 1878, his was a crash programme of two weeks instead of the usual two years.  It was therefore no surprise that while brave British troops followed Field Marshall Frederick Roberts victory march to Kandahar, Afghanistan, Lugard was in the hospital.

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As a British soldier, Lugard made no marks. He fought under Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley in the Sudan. Dejected, the man tried to join Italian forces during the invasion of Masawa, Abyssinia. No luck.

It was only when the African Lakes Company engaged him to pursue Arab and Swahili slave merchants in Nyasaland[ Malawi] that he could show his face. And from there, the Imperial British East Africa Company found him useful against less equipped African soldiers.

Lugard fell flat for a married woman who was holidaying in India. The lady deceived him and returned to England. Lover boy did not get the message until he rushed to his country to be confronted by reality.

It took him 43 years to pick a wife. She was Flora Shaw, a journalist who was also close to Cecil Rhodes of Cape Town, South Africa. These were the ones who coupled Nigeria together.

When Nigeria became a country in 1914, the Secretary of State for British colonies was Lewis Vernon Harcourt [November 3, 1910-May 25, 1915]. At the Nigeria Department, Colonial Office Whitehall, .A. J. Harding held sway.

Lugard renamed Igweocha. The new name became Port Harcourt. This same man was a lecher. Women were not enough. He lured and raped kids. This same city was named Garden City many years after Harcourt had deflowered babies and committed suicide in 1922.

Those in Pitakwa should know why there is a serial killer and rapist in their prison today. Those in Choba who alleged that Nigerian soldiers raped their women should know that it began with Lewis Harcourt.

Lugard was a wicked man. His countrymen created New England in the United States. Englishmen built East London in South Africa. Britons established New South Wales in Australia. He never tried to make Nigeria a better place to live.

Some white men before him were better. Gilbert Carter, Governor of Lagos [1981-92] died at Orono Court, Barbados. The man lived in Ilaro as a District Officer. Orono Court was designed by his second wife, Gertrude.

Orono Court is the official residence of the Prime Minister of Barbados. Carter’s first wife, Susan, died in Lagos in 1895. Carter Bridge is named after him.

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Change is constant. Ghana bore Gold Coast. Burma became Myanmar. Zimbabwe dropped Rhodesia. Ceylon changed to Sri Lanka. All these were British colonies.

Adegboye Onigbinde threw away Festus and became the first West African coach to take part in the World Cup. My colleague, Modestus Chukwulaka, got a better job after dropping his old surname, Uwalaka.

Vanguard

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